Dayton renews call for funding for water-quality

Published 10:17 am Tuesday, April 19, 2016

ST. PAUL — In declaring this week Water Action Week in Minnesota, Gov. Mark Dayton showed Monday he isn’t letting up on his push to improve water quality in the state through increased public involvement and more state spending.

The Democrat, flanked by several of his cabinet members at a news conference, encouraged Minnesota residents to promote and protect clean water in the state.

“Ultimately, clean water is not going to come from laws and rules and regulations, although they’re necessary and more may be necessary,” he said, “it’s going to come from an ethic, an ethic that’s established all over the state that each of us has our own responsibility for making water quality better and conserving and using it wisely.”

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Dayton has increasingly made water quality one of the hallmarks of his second term and has said it’s a “moral issue” that was instilled in him by his father. In January, he unveiled a wish list of $220 million in upgrades to ailing sewage networks, wastewater plants and drinking water treatment facilities across the state. The proposal would have lawmakers borrow money for dozens of infrastructure improvements from Afton to Winsted.

The long list of projects primarily targets cash-strapped cities and towns struggling to pay to overhaul aging sewer systems and outdated treatment facilities. It also includes some funding to compensate farmers for implementing larger buffer strips between crops and public waterways, which are intended to keep farm runoff from polluting streams and lakes.

Those projects are only a part of Dayton’s nearly $1.4 billion proposed bonding bill. That’s more than double the approximately $600 million proposed by House Republicans.

Dayton said he has received some indications from the House about water-quality spending, but has yet to see any concrete details.

“The 600 million dollars as they’re proposing is woefully inadequate to do what I’ve proposed for water quality improvement,” he said.